Legal Responsibilities for Child Care Centers
San Jose Day Care Injury Attorney
Parents sending their children to daycare often spend a lot of time screening potential providers. They want to ensure that they are sending their children someplace that makes safety a top priority. One can only imagine the horror and dismay over having a child injured while in the care of someone else.
Thousands Injured Annually
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) more than 200,000 children are hurt at daycare facilities each year. While most are playground injuries, there are considerable risks inside and outside the buildings where children are present. Childcare centers and nurseries are held to high standards in protecting children from harm. This article will explain some of the common injuries children suffer, highlight some of the responsibilities childcare centers have under California law, and explain the legal standard for seeking damages for childrens injuries.
The State of California issues licenses to nurseries, daycare centers and family childcare homes to ensure that these facilities follow general guidelines for childcare. The state has a vested interest in making sure that centers are free of hazards, safe for children and worthy of parents trust. Operating an unlicensed childcare center is a misdemeanor under California law
Duty of Care
With these responsibilities, daycare centers have a duty to protect children from harm. However, this duty is not absolute, and only extends to dangers that can reasonably be prevented. In general, reasonable dangers are hazards that the center can control and keep children away from. For example, a center can be expected to remove electrical hazards, since parents would be subject to this same expectation in their own homes. For centers that have stairs (or staircases) it would be prudent to have guardrails and rubber traction strips on each step. Daycare owners would also be expected to promptly clean up spills and prevent exposure to toxic materials.
The CDC notes that falls are the most common injury that children suffer at daycare centers. The playground is the most common area for injuries, with more girls being injured than boys. With that, childcare centers must be vigilant in doing the following:
Enforcing rules for safe play - Injuries are more likely to occur through pushing and shoving to get a place in line, roughhouse play and inherently dangerous games.
Maintaining safe equipment and toys - Play areas and playground equipment must be regularly maintained to help prevent injuries.
Providing proper supervision - Children inherently follow the lead of a qualified supervisor. There must be an adequate number of authority figures who can enforce rules and keep children safe.
If a child is injured, parents can hold the daycare center liable and seek compensation based on negligence. Essentially, parents would have to show that the center owed a duty of care in caring for the child, that such a duty was breached (or broken), that the centers actions (or inaction) were the proximate cause for the breach, and that the child suffered injuries as a result. Parents are entitled to recover money damages for medical costs, pain and suffering and other costs stemming from the accident.
Typically the owner of the childcare center will be named in a negligence suit, but depending on how the injuries occurred, other parties, including individual staff members, could be sued in their individual capacities. Lawsuits based on staff conduct are based on a vicarious liability theory of respondeat superior, stemming from an employees actions undertaken while in the scope and course of their employment. This means that an employer can sometimes be held liable for the acts of their employees.
Before pursuing action against a day care provider, it is important to gather information and discuss the problem with an experienced personal injury attorney. After all, courts do not usually hold providers liable for injuries stemming from normal childhood activities. If you learn of an accident and think to yourself that should never happen, chances are that a lawsuit would be appropriate. A lawyer can advise you of your rights and options, including the value of your case and the likelihood of success. He or she can also advise you on non-legal remedies to address the issues you face.